Boys Varsity Basketball · Stars shut down Gophers in second half to advance

DOVER – All season long, Western Boone head coach Josh Burkett has preached to his team about how their defense was going to lead to their offense.

In Friday night’s sectional semifinal, the Stars proved their coach right. Western Boone held Clinton Prairie to 16 points in the second half, including 10 for the first 14 minutes of the half, and advanced to the sectional title game with a 48-37 victory.

“It’s tournament time, and our boys love tournament time,” Burkett said. “They just knuckled down and guarded. They were stuck on 31 points for what seemed like forever and didn’t get much after that. We guarded all their sets really, really well, and just did a really good job.”

Western Boone will be trying to win their first sectional title since 2000.

Since then, they have appeared in the sectional title game five times, but haven’t been able to cut down the nets at the end of the game.

Burkett said this senior class in particular wants to be the group to end that streak.

“They have been locked in,” Burkett said. “They don’t want to lose. They know how to win in tournaments. They obviously won a lot in football, and it is a little different in basketball, but they proved they can grind it out. We aren’t done, and they know it. We have a really good Rossville team that beat us earlier in the year, that we have to find a way to beat tomorrow.”

The two teams played in the regular-season finale, with Clinton Prairie winning 59-43.

That meeting was tied at 21 at the half, and Friday night played out similarly, with the Gophers leading 21-19 after closing the half on a 7-0 run.

But unlike last week, when the Gophers dominated the second half, it was the Stars that made the adjustments they needed to in order to win.

Western Boone trailed 29-28 with 3:25 to go in the third quarter, but went on a 13-2 run run over the next 9:43, to take a 41-31 lead with 1:42 to play.

“We did switch up our offense a little bit and gave them a different look,” Burkett said of the run. “We had two different ways we wanted to attack their zone. We did it one way in the first half, and did it another in the second half. We did a good job of scoring out of that, but really it was just getting defensive stops. That’s the way you bury teams, getting stops and scores.”

The final basket of that run was from Jonathan McAtee, after Spencer Wright grabbed an offensive rebound on a missed free throw, drew in the defense and dished to a wide open McAtee underneath.

Wright made similar plays throughout the game, and led the Stars with 13 points.

“I can always tell when he is locked in and he was absolutely locked in today,” Burkett said. “He was very engaged vocally, was calling out what he was seeing and brought some stuff up at halftime. He’s a senior that didn’t want to lose.”

Cortez Stoudemire had 11 points, with McAtee adding 10.

Jake Jones had nine.

Western Boone will face Rossville for the sectional title at 7:30 p.m. at Western Boone. Rossville topped Seeger 55-39 in the other semifinal.

The two teams met in mid December, with the Hornets winning 61-56.

“They are making a lot more shots than they were in the beginning of the year, but so are we,” Burkett said. “They are still pressuring a lot, they like to make the game as chaotic as possible, so that’s what we have to be ready for.”

Will Willems is the Sports Editor of the Lebanon Reporter and Zionsville Times Sentinel. Follow him on Twitter @Will_Willems.